Liberal Judaism Chief Executive Rabbi Danny Rich has backed Labour’s Finchley and Golders Green candidate Ross Houston, who is fighting the marginal north London seat against Tory MP Mike Freer and the Liberal Democrat challenger Luciana Berger.
It was at one stage widely believed that Rabbi Rich was ready to announce that he would stand in the seat, which has the biggest Jewish community in the country.
But Rabbi Rich instead announced that he was supporting Mr Houston who was selected as the local Labour candidate last Sunday.
“Ross delights in the diversity of the community, has always called for a zero tolerance of antisemitism within and outside the Labour Party and is engaged and supportive on issues of concern to the Jewish community,” Rabbi Rich said.
He added that the Labour candidate” is an experienced local Councillor with an expertise in housing and a passionate view that Britain should remain in Europe.”
Rabbi Rich stressed Finchley and Golders Green “is a heavily remain voting constituency with real housing challenges.”
Last October Rabbi Rich sparked fury when it emerged he had invited Mr Corbyn to Friday night dinner along with Jewish Voice For Labour’s Jenny Manson.
At September’s Labour Conference in Brighton, Rabbi Rich also attended a JVL fringe event.
On Wednesday, Labour candidate Mr Houston told the JC he can “respect and understand” Luciana Berger’s decision to quit his party, saying she was the “victim of horrific abuse.”
He also said he recognised the “failure” of Jeremy Corbyn “to tackle antisemitism fast enough and robustly enough.”
Mr Houston – who works full-time as a housing officer for a housing association as well as sitting as deputy leader of the Labour group on Barnet Council - also slammed claims by the local Tory MP Mike Freer that Ms Berger should not be contesting the seat because she was challenging someone who was held to be a friend of the Jewish community.
“All three parties in this constituency have many Jewish members and I think it is right and fair to say that all three candidates would hope to be seen as friends of the Jewish community,” said the Labour candidate.
“Luciana Berger has every right to stand as a candidate wherever she chooses.”
He added: "Every member must make up their own mind about how best to tackle antisemitism in the Labour Party – whether from outside the Party or from within.
“There are many Jewish members who have not left the Party and many who are members in our constituency because they want to stay and fight, including members of the Barnet Labour Group of Councillors.
“I will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with them in that fight as long as they stay.”
The 52 year-old, from Fife, Scotland, rejected claims that he was speaking out now ahead of an election contest on the issue, but had been too silent on antisemitism on the past.
“Barnet Labour Group and Finchley and Golders Green Constituency have taken a lead in tackling this issue within the party,” he said. "Barry Rawlings as leader and me as his deputy work very closely as all our group members know.
“As leader Barry was our spokesperson and had to be for maximum impact but everything he did and said on this issue was done working with me and with my full support.
“I am a constituency delegate and have supported every measure by our Jewish Labour Movement members to challenge the party to deal with this issue robustly.”